Area of refuge

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Control room in nuclear power plant Chp controlroom.jpg
Control room in nuclear power plant
Control room cabinets at a coal power plant, opened up, revealing lacking firestops Control room cabinets.jpg
Control room cabinets at a coal power plant, opened up, revealing lacking firestops
Operating theatre Operating theatre.jpg
Operating theatre

An area of refuge is a location in a building designed to hold occupants during a fire or other emergency, when evacuation may not be safe or possible. Occupants can wait there until rescued or relieved by firefighters. This can apply to the following:


In some instances, an area of refuge or refuge area may refer to a designated space in a multi-unit residential building that is able provide relief from unsafe or uncomfortable conditions in individual units.

Technical requirements

An area of refuge is typically supplied with a steady supply of fresh or filtered outside air. The ducting that must supply such fresh air is referred to as pressurisation ductwork. Such ductwork are items of passive fire protection, subject to fire testing, product certification, and listing and approval use and compliance. The idea is that the ductwork must remain operable even while exposed to fire for a duration stipulated for each occupancy by the local building code. The electrical equipment supplying power to such systems must also be equipped with approved circuit integrity measures. Both ventilation and power systems must have a demonstrable fire-resistance rating that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.

Similar requirements apply to emergency lighting in areas of refuge. A two way communication system is required on each floor above or below the main floor in newly constructed facilities. A call box is required in each area of refuge, which can call into a central location called a base station. If the station is not attended 24 hours a day, the call must automatically call to an outside location and have two-way voice person to person communication capabilities.

Typical areas of refuge

All examples above are also typically required to be bounded by walls and floors that have a fire-resistance rating.

Other uses of refuge areas

In the context of climate change, where older buildings may not be designed for changing climate conditions, refuge spaces are sometimes discussed in terms of providing communal areas in multi-unit buildings for when temperature and air quality is not safe or comfortable in individual units. [1] [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Central heating

A central heating system provides warmth to the number of spaces within a building and optionally also able to heat domestic hot water from one main source of heat unlike heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system which can both cool and warm interior spaces.

Emergency light

An emergency light is a battery-backed lighting device that switches on automatically when a building experiences a power outage. Emergency lights are standard in new commercial and high occupancy residential buildings, such as college dormitories, apartments, and hotels. Most building codes require that they be installed in older buildings as well.

Firefighting jargon includes a diverse lexicon of both common and idiosyncratic terms. One problem that exists in trying to create a list such as this is that much of the terminology used by a particular department is specifically defined in their particular standing operating procedures, such that two departments may have completely different terms for the same thing. For example, depending on whom one asks, a safety team may be referred to as a standby, a RIT or RIG or RIC, or a FAST. Furthermore, a department may change a definition within its SOP, such that one year it may be RIT, and the next RIG or RIC.

Damper (flow)

A damper is a valve or plate that stops or regulates the flow of air inside a duct, chimney, VAV box, air handler, or other air-handling equipment. A damper may be used to cut off central air conditioning to an unused room, or to regulate it for room-by-room temperature and climate control. Its operation can be manual or automatic. Manual dampers are turned by a handle on the outside of a duct. Automatic dampers are used to regulate airflow constantly and are operated by electric or pneumatic motors, in turn controlled by a thermostat or building automation system. Automatic or motorized dampers may also be controlled by a solenoid, and the degree of air-flow calibrated, perhaps according to signals from the thermostat going to the actuator of the damper in order to modulate the flow of air-conditioned air in order to effect climate control.

Diving chamber Hyperbaric pressure vessel for human occupation used in diving operations

A diving chamber is a vessel for human occupation, which may have an entrance that can be sealed to hold an internal pressure significantly higher than ambient pressure, a pressurised gas system to control the internal pressure, and a supply of breathing gas for the occupants.

Mineral-insulated copper-clad cable

Mineral-insulated copper-clad cable is a variety of electrical cable made from copper conductors inside a copper sheath, insulated by inorganic magnesium oxide powder. The name is often abbreviated to MICC or MI cable, and colloquially known as pyro. A similar product sheathed with metals other than copper is called mineral insulated metal sheathed (MIMS) cable.

Fire protection All measures, that prevent or avoid the occurrence of a fire or the spread of fire

Fire protection is the study and practice of mitigating the unwanted effects of potentially destructive fires. It involves the study of the behaviour, compartmentalisation, suppression and investigation of fire and its related emergencies, as well as the research and development, production, testing and application of mitigating systems. In structures, be they land-based, offshore or even ships, the owners and operators are responsible to maintain their facilities in accordance with a design-basis that is rooted in laws, including the local building code and fire code, which are enforced by the Authority Having Jurisdiction.

Fire alarm system

A fire alarm system warns people when smoke, fire, carbon monoxide or other fire-related emergencies are detected. These alarms may be activated automatically from smoke detectors, and heat detectors or may also be activated via manual fire alarm activation devices such as manual call points or pull stations. Alarms can be either motorized bells or wall mountable sounders or horns. They can also be speaker strobes which sound an alarm, followed by a voice evacuation message which warns people inside the building not to use the elevators. Fire alarm sounders can be set to certain frequencies and different tones including low, medium and high, depending on the country and manufacturer of the device. Most fire alarm systems in Europe sound like a siren with alternating frequencies. Fire alarm electronic devices are known as horns in the United States and Canada, and can be either continuous or set to different codes. Fire alarm warning devices can also be set to different volume levels.

Passive fire protection

Passive fire protection (PFP) is an integral component of the components of structural fire protection and fire safety in a building. PFP attempts to contain fires or slow the spread, such as by fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors. PFP systems must comply with the associated listing and approval use and compliance in order to provide the effectiveness expected by building codes.

Within the context of building construction and building codes, "occupancy" refers to the use, or intended use, of a building, or portion of a building, for the shelter or support of persons, animals or property. A closely related meaning is the number of units in such a building that are rented, leased, or otherwise in use. Lack of occupancy, in this sense, is known as "vacancy".

Passive cooling

Passive cooling is a building design approach that focuses on heat gain control and heat dissipation in a building in order to improve the indoor thermal comfort with low or no energy consumption. This approach works either by preventing heat from entering the interior or by removing heat from the building. Natural cooling utilizes on-site energy, available from the natural environment, combined with the architectural design of building components, rather than mechanical systems to dissipate heat. Therefore, natural cooling depends not only on the architectural design of the building but on how the site's natural resources are used as heat sinks. Examples of on-site heat sinks are the upper atmosphere, the outdoor air (wind), and the earth/soil.

Circuit integrity

Circuit integrity refers to the operability of electrical circuits during a fire. It is a form of fire-resistance rating. Circuit integrity is achieved via passive fire protection means, which are subject to stringent listing and approval use and compliance.

Duct (flow) Conduit used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning

Ducts are conduits or passages used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to deliver and remove air. The needed airflows include, for example, supply air, return air, and exhaust air. Ducts commonly also deliver ventilation air as part of the supply air. As such, air ducts are one method of ensuring acceptable indoor air quality as well as thermal comfort.

Pressurisation ductwork

Pressurisation duct work is a passive fire protection system. It is used to supply fresh air to any area of refuge, designated emergency evacuation or egress route.

Smoke exhaust ductwork

Smoke exhaust ductwork, in Europe, is typically protected via passive fire protection means, subject to fire testing and listing and approval use and compliance. It is used to remove smoke from buildings, ships or offshore structures to enable emergency evacuation as well as improved firefighting. In North America, fireproofed ductwork may be used for the purpose of smoke exhaust, but it is more common to use unfireproofed return air ductwork, whereby no fire testing or listings are employed to qualify the ductwork for this use. Evidence of this North American practice can be found in the 2010 National Building Code of Canada, Mechanical Exhaust System, as well as Sections 909.16.2 and 910 of the 2015 International Building Code.

Grease duct

A grease duct is a duct that is specifically designed to vent grease-laden flammable vapors from commercial cooking equipment such as stoves, deep fryers, and woks to the outside of a building or mobile food preparation trailer. Grease ducts are regulated both in terms of their construction and maintenance, forming part of the building's passive fire protection system. The cleaning schedule is typically dictated by fire code or related safety regulations, and evidence of compliance must be kept on file by the owner.

Fire damper

Fire dampers are passive fire protection products used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts to prevent the spread of fire inside the ductwork through fire-resistance rated walls and floors. Fire/smoke dampers are similar to fire dampers in fire resistance rating, and also prevent the spread of smoke inside the ducts. When a rise in temperature occurs, the fire damper closes, usually activated by a thermal element which melts at temperatures higher than ambient but low enough to indicate the presence of a fire, allowing springs to close the damper blades. Fire dampers can also close following receipt of an electrical signal from a fire alarm system utilising detectors remote from the damper, indicating the sensing of heat or smoke in the building occupied spaces or in the HVAC duct system.


A skylight is a light-transmitting structure or window, usually made of transparent or transluscent glass, that forms all or part of the roof space of a building for daylighting and ventilation purposes.

Passive survivability refers to a building's ability to maintain critical life-support conditions in the event of extended loss of power, heating fuel, or water. This idea proposes that designers should incorporate ways for a building to continue sheltering inhabitants for an extended period of time during and after a disaster situation, whether it be a storm that causes a power outage, a drought which limits water supply, or any other possible event.


  1. Schünemann, Christoph; Olfert, Alfred; Schiela, David; Gruhler, Karin; Ortlepp, Regine (2020). "Mitigation and adaptation in multifamily housing: overheating and climate justice". Buildings & Cities. 1 (1): 36–55. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  2. "The Design Guide Supplement on Overheating and Air Quality" (PDF). BC Housing. p. 35. Retrieved 13 July 2021.